Zahara, a year on

2012-09-14 10:03

Exactly a year ago an Eastern Cape guitar strumming sensation rocked the country. Lesley Mofokeng catches up with Zahara

A year on and with bragging rights no money can buy, the Zahara onslaught continues.

The singer-songwriter, aka Bulelwa Mkutukana (25), from Phumlani village in Eastern Cape, released her live DVD and CD and within days clocked the 40 000 sales mark – making it one of the fastest-selling DVDs in South Africa.

When you have a couple of awards to your name and have performed on a few prestigious stages after your debut album, your focus can get jaded. But Zahara remains humble and modest.

She has mastered the art of autograph signing and posing for fans but is still overwhelmed by the requests.

“The journey has been good, God has blessed me,” she says.

“So much has changed in my way of thinking and doing things. I get humbled when an older person tells me that I have inspired them when they were down and out.

“It’s an honour for me when fans ask for an autograph and a picture, it’s the least I can give and I always say thank you for taking the time,” she says.

That her hit song, Loliwe, is still a national anthem 12 months after its release, is no mean feat in this fast-paced entertainment industry with an audience obsessed with instant gratification and always on the lookout for the next big thrill.

Most musicians record a DVD after their third album, maybe fourth, but not Zahara.

Now music lovers who enjoyed the album Loliwe will have their visual sense satisfied with the DVD shot in front of a capacity crowd at Carnival City.

The songs come alive with the help of the Soweto Gospel Choir; dancers; and collaborations with singers like LeRoy Bell, who was a US X-Factor finalist, and local star Riot.

“On this DVD you get to see the person I am. I can tell my story better and connect with my fans,” she says.

On the news of being a platinum-seller once again, she has a few words. “Wow ... I don’t know. I am so blessed.”

After hitting the ground running last September, Zahara was bound to scoop eight awards at the SA Music Awards evening earlier this year.

What she raked in takes a lifetime for an average musician, and this is a true mark of the tour de force she is.

But the journey has not been smooth sailing. She has woken up to the fact that fame is a poisoned chalice.

Her finances became a matter of national interest and the motives of TK Nciza, the man who discovered her while she was known as Spinach at Talamanca music lounge in East London, were questioned.

She was rumoured to be broke and just a domestic servant in the Nciza household.

And the jokes kept coming.

Today she laughs.

“The maid story was the funniest,” and then she gets serious, “but it was hurtful that someone could think that of Nhlanhla (Nciza, TK’s wife), a person with such a beautiful soul.

“I wouldn’t do anything differently. It doesn’t matter what you do, haters will hate,” she says.

Now she is pouring her efforts into her newest campaign called The Blooming Flower: African
Girl Child with a Guitar of Hope.

Inspired by her own story of how she taught herself to play the guitar, she is embarking on an effort to distribute the instrument to vulnerable young girls on the Mother Continent.

“I know suffering, I went to school with no shoes and sometimes went to bed without food. And when my sister gave me that guitar she gave me hope.

“When my friends left the village I was alone with my mom. I taught myself how to play and that was my way out of a desperate situation,” she says, “I want these young girls to say that there was once a young girl who met her destiny with the guitar.”

Zahara plans to provide free lessons to her benefactors.

All she wants from them is a commitment to attend rehearsals and have a sense of responsibility.

These will be distributed at refugee camps and hospitals.

She has already donated 20 to a church in central London that takes care of African girls, even the BBC covered the occasion.

Her next stop is Malawi.

She will also offer guitar lessons online via YouTube.

“I am blessed to be where I am right now. And I can use my position to influence change.

I feel that as the youth, our morals, values and principles are questionable. I want to represent this generation and bring back the good morals.

“What defines success? Is it the cars, the house and the clothes we wear? To me, success is when a young person approaches me and says that she likes the way I conduct myself because one needs to be humble and modest and remain true to who they are.”

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